A bread queue in Pereslavl-Zalessk, Yaroslavl Oblast, USSR, 1991
Polls show that ever more Russians want to go “back to the USSR” but this nostalgia is not shared by others, including Ukrainians where the level of nostalgia for that past is only have as much as it is among Russians.
New Year’s celebrations highlight this Russian retreat to the past, Alina Vitukhnovskaya says, with this new year in Putin’s Russia being “the most Soviet of all Soviet new years.” Indeed, she says, elderly people say that even in the times of stagnation, such “sad decorations” were not put up.
As a result, she continues, Russia has become “a land of ghosts,” where everything is simply brought back and no one feels like celebrating or resisting, the Russian commentator continues, a pattern that makes the current system “look absurd” even on its own terms, a stark contrast with the situation in Ukraine and elsewhere.
In Russia today, Vitukhnovskaya continues, “everything from thought to design has become Soviet. It seems even the weather has become Soviet! But if earlier all this was held together by a certain ideology, now, it continues as a result of inertia, cowardliness, servility and autochthonian fears.”
In this is both it strength and weakness. Its strength because “it does not feel any internal discomfort being already in fact dead;” and its weakness because it has no ability to evolve or reproduce itself but only to return again and again to the same place without any hope of progress.
Life has become an imitation of itself rather than the real thing, and people feel it. For them, “the present-day state is not ‘a dragon’ but a ghost;” but they too “have become ghosts,” the product of a machine that continues to work on its own without any purpose except to continue to work.
And that has a consequence which the powers that be in the Kremlin hope Russians will not soon wake up to: “each of us can stop this having understood the absurdity of taking part in this bad comedy and having displayed political will.” That hasn’t happened yet, but the sense that it can and will stands behind the fading decorations of the “Soviet” new years in Russia.
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